Mechanics of the Dialectical Landscape

Friday, September 28, 2007

BIM Splitting: Splitting BIM

Gordon Matta-Clark has been a favorite artist of mine for several years. He's often been an inspiration for looking at design and construction from various psychological ways. To me, his message is peculiar in relation to the world of digital architecture because he's often known with dissociatively connecting architectural space with data, while simultaneously disconnecting the architectural chronologies of its own pathos. I draw attention to this because this author feels it is appropriately paradoxical to contrast his sentiments with our present day pursuits in construction (and de-construction) technology. It's exactly what I feel the current Building Information Modeling movement should hearken, and carry beyond mere technological tangibility, or standard AECO practice, over the next ten years.

Or, perhaps this is what I'm preoccupied with attempting myself - and I'm using something from Matta-Clark's exercises to define this sentiment from a Virtual Design and Construction stance.

Ever since being a pre-architecture student at School of Visual Arts, in Manhattan, and being exposed to both his and James Wines’ work, I recognized these exercises as a kind of symbology to address both designing, and design criticism. Learning this as a 26 year old sculpture student was a profound experience - via several instructors (some of whom were brought up in architecture families, or received professional architecture degrees of their own.)

While this blog may serve as a somewhat biographical and tangential exercise: as a current Building Information Modeling (BIM) practitioner, I sometimes can’t help but feel a virtual connection to his renown performance, Splitting, from 1974, done in Englewood, NJ (especially when "splitting" a 3D model from within a BIM program.)

In case you’ve never heard of this artist (non-architect; or anarchitect,) Matta-Clark (1943-1978) was a ground breaking “de-constructivist” who executed intricate carvings out of readymade architecture (buildings) that were (most often) soon to be demolished. His best known works were created, internationally, over a period of 10 years - between 1968 and 1977.

How ironic that, today, with all of our latest computer architecture technology, BIM somehow fits into the concept of de-constructivist theory and contextualization.

Because the very solution that all “modeled information”, with BIM technology, may now be that which is virtually carved, sliced, chopped, dissected, examined; and as tangibly as Gordon Matta-Clark might have chosen to do so (from within real situations): takes his method into the cyber-realm. Or, at least, this is how I feel.

Could these exercises have also come from his practical sense of addressing traditional drafting techniques and practice while breaking down "real space"? Was he making renovations of "the virtual" while being inside the reality of his own design, carving; sculpting within the core? Was he thinking similarly, then, to how progressive CAD programs allow users to operate now? In terms of virtual decon - I would argue yes to both.

This is why I feel he was performing autonomous "computerized" methods as an extension of his cuttings. Some may say this is speculative and not well grounded, or well suited for "art" theory. Whatever the case, there are still arguments to be made, comparatively (with technology), beyond the archetypes of his accomplishments and imagination.

I feel BIM contemplates design and construction somewhere between the technology of CAD and his mind's eye. BIM is Post-CAD.

It’s almost as though this renegade artist had foreshadowed the future of digital architectural design (process) from within an inert virtual architectural psyche: dealing with the deep contemplations of architectural vicissitudes, way before modern reception. Usually he's been considered as doing this within the socioeconomic context of blighted neighborhoods, while exercising more artistic or poetic commentary. Yet, had he still been alive today, these works may have also had vast implications for digital-socio-ecological reasoning, architectural forensics, sustainability, forecasting for adaptive reuse projects, etc.

This possibly proves that (as was sometimes suspected) he might have been a visionary to modern computer architecture – as well as being a prolific artist working in the medium of architecture; on the fringes of an inept society.

Several bloggers have been writing effusively on the subject of Building Information Modeling. But while not all architectural circles agree that BIM technology is a viable resource, [enough that it should even be widely accepted (as often Matta-Clark's renegade behavior was not)] the indications that BIM is, in fact, gaining ground (as phenomenological methodology), fastidiously overrides conservative ferment that it is "shear nonsense". The splitting taking the foreground [place] shall not be the same Splitting that’s archaic to the fact-of-the-matter divisiveness. Cultural splits are never what they automatically appear as, and that can make huge imprints on our minds because they haunt us with unearthed truths about autonomous technological advancement.

It should come as no surprise that preeminent architect, Frank O. Gehry, who has been on the forefront of BIM technology, is also widely influenced by Matta-Clark.

Like those recognized, who’ve staked their own place within a design theory, the fragments of these findings are usually only initially visible to a select few: my advisors at SVA, for instance. But, as in art and design, as well as in controversial technologies, simple forms can delight and surprise and reflect the very nature of why we perform in such ways. Recently I visited the Gordon Matta-Clark: You are the Measure retrospective at the Whitney Museum, last spring. I was delighted that the New York Times chose to state at the top of their March 3, 2007 article; that it "should be required viewing for any architect born in the age of the computer screen." This confirmed exactly what I walked away feeling, after attending the exhibit (twice).

Splitting progressive CAD is an extensively tough-love (labor-of-love) task. However, there are parallels that, while seemingly are far-off, ostensibly, make perfect sense when looking beyond archaic CAD pragmatism. BIM is what's most progressive now and is splitting into more diverse movements and systems, interoperably , especially under the microscope of its own palpability: as it stands now.

Perhaps exemplary pieces of art, as Matta-Clark's Splitting, offer reflective qualities in ways only a select few in progressive digital architecture may appreciate. To those modeling with BIM, who exist in the here and now, it’s great to have digital 3D parametric houses compiled and recognized as offerings to their own prodigal examinations. For others, it's still just a house divided.